Around The Island – The Plants, The Panel, The Pump and The Plumeria

The day after our Pearl Harbor excursion, I visited a nursery in Waimanalo. Even on a cloudy day, Waimanalo is a view of lushness with the Ko’olau Mountains as a striking backdrop.

Nursery in Waimanalo

I filled up the car. Gas is going up again.

Seen in Honolulu

A few days later we had dinner in Waikiki, where Mark bought me a lei.  Could someone please develop a widget for smell? I’d add it to my blog so you all could smell the plumeria.

I wish you could smell the Plumeria.

Saturday was game day. My now hometown team was playing my alma mater.  What to do?  Cheer for which team?  The politically correct answer was to attend the Spellbinders conference at the Hilton Hawaiian Village instead.

Big news, Hawaii football and an early whale

Here’s a panel talking about taking a book and turning it into a movie.

Hollywood People



Pearl Harbor Survivor

Here’s what’s happened over the last few weeks:

First, we had a tour of Pearl Harbor from our friend Uncle Herb.  He’s half Hawaiian, in his 90’s and a Pearl Harbor and Battle of the Bulge survivor. It was my first time to the memorial and Uncle Herb greeted us in his electric scooter at the main gate.

We had no idea our neighbor and friend was a celebrity. Tourists brought their children up to him to hear his story. Everyone wanted a photo with a real life hero. We took photos for tourists and waited until it was time to board the ship to the Arizona. Uncle Herb had procured tickets for us on the 9:00 tour.

One of the many photos we took of Uncle and tourists.

The line for the 9:00 tour snaked around the building that housed the theater.  As we followed Uncle Herb, he steered his scooter along the side of the line, telling us, “Stick to me like glue.”  We did and Uncle led us to the front of the line, where the National Park rangers unhooked the rope and let us through.

We sat in the front row while waiting to watch a short video that helped explain the history of that infamous day. When finished, we opened the door and followed Uncle to the boarding area for the boat that would take us to the Arizona. The military members working the ship kept everyone standing in line behind the rope while Uncle Herb headed towards the ramp. We stopped when the men at the ramp flanked each side and saluted Uncle as he rode up the ramp to the ferry.

When he was on board, we followed him and waited for the line of people to embark. Once en route to the Arizona, one of the men who had saluted announced on the loudspeaker that there was a Pearl Harbor survivor onboard, that he would be let off ship first and that their tradition was to salute the living survivors.

Again we followed Uncle off the boat onto the Arizona. When the line of people standing to the left waiting to leave the Arizona saw Uncle in his Pearl Harbor hat come towards them, the entire line clapped as he rode by. We didn’t hear much of Uncle’s stories while on the memorial because everyone again wanted to meet him, shake his hand, tell him “thank you” and have a photo with him.

I leaned over to Uncle and whispered in his ear,  “You’re a rock star here.”

He smiled and said, “And I don’t have to have a guitar or shake my hips.”

We then asked one of the tourists to take our photo with Uncle Herb.

Here I am with Uncle Herb in front of the anchor from the Arizona.


Now That’s Fresh!

A few weeks ago my computer stopped working. It’s up and running again. Sorry, I haven’t blogged for such a long time.


Thinking back to when we first moved here over a year ago, I thought of how I missed the food scene in San Francisco. I lamented over the lack of California cuisine with fresh grown California vegetables and fruit.

A few weeks ago, I wrote of missing walking San Francisco streets with a warm cup of coffee in hand and hanging out in bookstores.

Yesterday, I realized I’ve become accustomed to island living. I watched the morning sunrise, embraced the tradewinds momentarily cooling the afternoon humidity and appreciated the sight of the ocean in the distance from the highway.

Mark and I went to dinner where I ordered Opah. I asked how fresh it was. The waiter said, “It was caught this afternoon and delivered to the kitchen as I started my shift today.”

Super fresh Opah, wrapped in a ti leaf and cooked on the grill with a side of rice and vegetables. Yum!

After dinner, we went to the beach and felt the sand in our toes. We watched the stars in the sky and imagined what lay in the dark distance extending from our island in the middle of the Pacific.

As the evening flights, which took off from Honolulu airport, flew overhead, carrying their passengers home to far-off locations, we waved to each plane and said, “Bye, come back soon!”

Then we gratefully returned to our car to go home. We never have to leave here.




Only On Oahu

Here on Oahu, when I’m invited to a party at a house I’ve never been to before, how do I know I’m at the correct house? When I see I pile of slippahs (AKA flip-flops) outside the front door.

The party’s inside.

While driving, if I let the bus come into my lane, the driver flashes a digitally lighted sign on the rear of the bus that shows a hand giving the shaka and the word “mahalo” after it.

I love the variety of flowers here. When entering an office building, I often see flowers on the lobby table or the receptionist’s desk.  I’m not talking about a typical vase of gerbera daisies or roses. Tropical flowers of all shapes and colors are everywhere here. This pink flower is one I saw the other day on a receptionist’s desk. I have no idea what type of flower this is, but I love it.

I wish I knew the name of this flower.

In many sections of Oahu I see groups of Japanese tourists with cameras and guidebooks in hand, waiting outside restaurants, walking to sights, or standing en masse in front of shops. They come here with tour groups and given guidebooks that tell them exactly where to go and what to see. And they follow it. If a clothing store is in their guidebook, they will come into that store and point to the photo of a specific article of clothing. They want that exact item shown in their guidebook. They’ll wait an hour or more to eat at a specific restaurant because that restaurant was in their guidebook.  They’ll chance getting hit in traffic because they are directed to rent kayaks from a specific kayak company; one that requires crossing a busy road. Ironically, the road is busy with tour buses, not commuter traffic.

Most mornings I work on my computer at a coffee shop. Well, my coffee shop is soon-to-be added to a Japanese guidebook.  I watched Japanese women stage photos of the inside of the coffee shop and of plates of food. This place is about to be invaded by groups of Japanese tourists.

At least they are quiet and respectful of others, even in a large group.

While writing this at the coffee shop, there’s one guy who is obviously NOT from here and not a Japanese tourist. How is he so obvious? He’s talking on his cell phone so loudly that everyone can hear his conversation. I guess he’s so important, he can prevent others from having a quiet conversation with a friend or co-worker over a cup of coffee, or keep the rest of us who are on computers distracted from our work. Yes, mister businessman from Denver, I feel like asking you, “Who is the loudest person in here?”

But I won’t.

I’ll just remember for myself, “When in Rome, I mean, Oahu…..”





Big City Fix

Last night at writers group we talked about southern California in the 60’s – huaraches, surfboards, sunshine, the Beach Boys. It seemed it was always summer in southern California back then.

It’s summer on Oahu now, hot and humid, with crowded beaches, warm water, and shave ice. Surfers, with surfboards under arms, run across streets to catch ocean waves. Sometimes they carry their boards while riding bicycles, a talent I will never achieve.  Tourists walk the streets with red, blistered skin. Air-conditioned stores fill with patrons seeking refuge from the hot, muggy afternoons. The summer solstice sun last night glared into our eyes as we drove into Kaimuki for our writers group.

I sit here at a small coffee shop in Honolulu in a tank top and shorts, continually scooting  my chair out of the sun, and I’m missing The City. THE City. San Francisco. Summer in San Francisco was a wool coat with hat and scarf; bitter cold wind, eye-level fog, foghorns and coffee. I think of the heater in my old 1930’s-built apartment coming on at all hours and of time spent in bookstores. I would go to a coffee shop for something to eat and take a coffee to walk around with, mostly because I’m a coffee addict, but also because it kept my hand warm.

I miss the literary scene. There’s City Lights in North Beach and independent bookstores in every neighborhood. I miss Book Passage in Marin County with their endless calendar of classes, conferences, readings, etc. I miss how I’d meet a writer at any coffee shop or bookstore.

My friend Eric Sasson is reading from his book next month at Why There Are Words in Sausalito. I used to attend regularly when I lived there, usually with a writer friend or two. I can’t find anything like Why There Are Words on Oahu.

I’m also thinking of Washington D.C.  A recent transplant told me it’s a foody scene in D.C. now. I remember when the Borders bookstore in Arlington, Virginia opened. It had a coffee shop and evening music, a novel idea at the time. People flocked to it. Now D.C. has new restaurants along with bookstores. (Please tell me great bookstores are still there.)

And why do I have thoughts of New York? Never have I yearned for New York. Last time I was there was before Rudy Giuliani was mayor.

I need a city fix.

I don’t know if this qualifies as Island Fever, I’m not craving miles and miles of open land. I’m just missing big city vitality.

Mark and I are planning a trip later this year to Seattle. Neither of us has ever been. We’re open to ideas of what to see or do. I like the artsy/literary/coffee shop scene. Mark likes historical places. We’ll walk neighborhoods and waterfronts.

But Seattle is months and months away. Anyone have a suggestion of how to get a big city fix in summertime Hawaii? Should I rent Sex And The City videos or do I get on a plane and go somewhere? Anyone have a city in mind I should check out?


We Accept Yen

Seen at a convenience store in Honolulu

Shops in Honolulu take Yen. Sales people speak Japanese. Signs and menus are in English and Japanese. The Japanese influence on this town is everywhere. A good example is Marukai market. It’s a club store, sort of like Costco. Members can stock up on Hawaiian-made snacks, Japanese home décor, and necessities like fans, altars, bamboo plants and Hello Kitty items. Never will you run out of rice if you live near Marukai. Fresh sushi and every kind of shoyu/soy sauce is also available.

Rice at Marukai

On a recent visit to my hair stylist, he placed a new product in my hair to give it sheen. I loved it and purchased a bottle. “Put a little in the palm of your hand and run it through your hair before you blow dry,” he said.

“About how much?” I asked. “The size of a dime?”

“Too much” he said.

“So, maybe pea-sized?” I asked. “Too little,” he answered.  He then nodded his head, and said, “Edamame size.”

Edamame size? Only in Hawaii have I heard people refer to something as edamame-sized. I really am out of the U.S.

But where exactly am I?

In Honolulu, the Japanese influence is strong, but what about the rest of the island?  In the less populated areas of Oahu, there’s another world, one before the Japanese culture landed on this island… it’s that of the native Hawaiian. Here’s a photo that illustrates their thoughts:

I make no political statement. I endorse no group. I am an American living in a land that is removed from mainstream American culture. Life has an ebb and flow here based upon the weather, the geography, and the mix of people. Hawaii has no majority ethnic group.  English, Japanese, Hawaiian and Pidgin (among others) are spoken here.  Baptist churches reside next to Shinto Temples. The Episcopal cathedral tower can be seen while standing in front of a Chinese temple. The Mormon temple and rural Protestant church live harmoniously in the country, while evangelical churches dot most neighborhoods.

What is important now? Appreciating the beauty of the land here. Even in the rain and clouds, the mountains are spectacular. They tell me a story every time I look at them. When they look angry, I wonder why. Is it my emotion being projected onto them or are the mountains trying to tell me something?

When the alternating blue and cloudy sky reflects upon the ocean creating flowing shades of turquoise, aqua and sea-foam green, I stop to admire the constant change in color as each wave laps upon the shore, then disappears. In those moments, I’m reminded of the constant change of life. Nothing stays the same. Each moment is unique and fleeting. Mother Nature reminds me to appreciate the moments life gives me. And that goes for the people. I’ve written before about the nature of human beings. Seventy years ago Japan was our enemy, now they are our friends. I’ve encountered native Hawaiians who have judged me by my skin color and others who have accepted me as another human, blind to the difference of skin color between us.

A friend asked me what my thoughts are of having lived in Hawaii for just over a year.  Mostly, I’ve changed my priorities. I don’t need the latest clothes by some designer or the latest upscale linens. I don’t need to rush. Nothing has to be done so quickly that my rushing it negatively affects another person’s serenity. I’ve learned I can’t assume the way a person is by their skin color or cultural background. I let the land dictate the way my day goes.

Sometimes the ocean calls me and I just have to stop at the beach to feel the water wash over my feet. As the last of each wave swirls around my ankles, I watch the clouds float by reminding me to live in the moment, to be a good person, and to accept all inhabiting this multi-cultural island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The Coffee Five-0 Connection

Life on Oahu was busy in May, mostly from visitors. When you move to Hawaii, everyone comes to stay with you.

Anyway, the visitors are gone and I am left with my daily routine. I drop Mark off at work, then head to my secret location to write. It’s quiet first thing in the morning, but gets busier after a few hours. I don’t mind though, by that point I’m in the writing zone and don’t even notice the people around me…..

Until a day a couple of weeks ago, when the flash of a camera shook me from my computer screen full of words.

Alex O’Loughlin was sitting in a chair directly in front of me. If you watch the new Hawaii Five-0 series on CBS, you know Alex O’Loughlin as Steve McGarrett.

Go ahead, Google him…….

…..yes, he’s just as handsome in person. After the couple snapped a photo with him, they left. No one else bothered him. He sat, talked on his phone and waited for his order, just like a regular person.

Last year I blogged about a stop at a coffee shop which led us to the Hawaii Five-0 crew filming a scene. We watched Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan take down a bad guy on the beach. The blog title was, “Coffee Gets Us Five-0”.  Once again it seems coffee led me to Hawaii Five-0. If there’s something I’m supposed to glean from this, I’ll assume it’s to keep my coffee addiction.

My secret writing place has great organic Hawaiian coffee. It doesn’t have free Wi-Fi, which is good; otherwise, I’d be online instead of writing.  It has good food, clean bathrooms, comfortable chairs and handsome TV stars. What more could a writer want? (Besides a big time NY agent)

Oh, right, it’s in Hawaii.

A Picky Eater Tours Whole Foods

I’m a picky eater. Organic when I can. Grass Fed over mass-produced feed. Fresh, local produce. Gluten-free as much as possible.

Hooray to Whole Foods for opening their newest store in Hawaii. It’s in Kailua, on the Windward side of Oahu and today I toured the store before its grand opening on Wednesday.

Wow! The store is huge! There’s a section for everything, starting with wine, beer and pizza. They’re having Happy Hours with $2.00 beer. Get a draft and a slice and sit with your friends in the cushy green seats in the “Bar” area.

My favorite is the coffee and juice bar. Twelve different coffees served daily. I swear I heard our tour guide say, “Twelve.” I hope I wasn’t imagining it.

There’s a bakery section with organic bread baked daily. The baker also said my favorite words, “gluten-free.” But it won’t be baked fresh daily. The gluten-free foods will be in the refrigerated or freezer sections.

Next we went to the butcher section. See the pattern here – bartender, baker, butcher. Like an old time village, where you stopped at each proprietor for your food, except here, it’s all in one store.

They talked for a while about a color-coded system of defining the level of meats by how they were raised. The couple behind me and I both honed in on the beef coming from Maui. Not too far, when considering we are the metropolis most-removed from another city in the entire world. As in, we are far from everything here in the Pacific Ocean.

The fish section has a poke bar. Typical Hawaii.

Across the way we went to the bulk section. Not only do they have bulk nuts and seeds, but bulk liquids. I saw metal containers that looked like coffee urns marked with “Macadamia Nut Oil”, “Raw Blue Agave”, and “Amino Acids”.

Finally to the fresh produce. They purchase produce as local as possible, which isn’t difficult here. Hawaii has excellent papaya, mango, pineapple, corn, lettuce and greens. Oh, the list goes on….

Maui Pineapples on Sale

We walked around the outdoor, gated area to listen to music, and sample foods. The tea with sorbet was excellent. I tried both the Lychee and the Ginger Passion Fruit. Once Whole Foods is open for shopping, I’m buying some.

I can’t wait shop here. Thank you Whole Foods for opening up a much larger store and on the other side of the island.

A Blustery Easter Day

Last Easter, we sat on the beach under a warm Hawaiian sun, while blue skies beckoned us into the turquoise water. This Easter, we had windy, rainy, grey skies.

Inclement weather didn’t stop Oahu residents from celebrating at the beach. Saturday morning, I met some friends for a morning get together. In the wind-blown park adjacent to the beach, I watched a group set up for a party. Tarps were hung from pillar to pillar under the gazebo area, in order to block the wind and potential rain from their cooking area. A truck pulled up loaded with tables and chairs. Someone was having a luau at the beach.

Every weekend, but especially on holidays, large groups come to the beach areas. They set up grills, chairs and tables loaded with food. Then they line up coolers around the group’s area. There they sit all day, talking story with friends and family, eating ono (good) homemade food and watching the kids play in the ocean.  If there is no covered area, large canopy tents are erected to house the party and protect the food.

Everyone has a good time and when finished every remnant of the party is cleaned up and taken out of the park/beach area.  This happens all over the island.

Yesterday, I watched Ala Moana and Kapiolani parks fill up with families and friends gathering for the holiday.

South Shore sunset on Easter

The rain came crashing onto the island around 4:30, while the wind whipped the palm trees and tents. By 7:00, Mark and I were watching the rain from a restaurant. No luau for us, just a chef-made Easter dinner under a large tent, while watching the storm pass outside.

When it rains here, locals say we are being blessed. We had a blessed Easter Day on Oahu.